|Index||8 reviews in total|
Be sure not to miss this most irreverent "jidai-geki" (period piece) from first-time director Kudo Kankuro. Loosely based on an earlier movie about two men escaping their wives, the postmodern treatment of the subject is indeed a treat. As one critic in Japan commented, the director must have been drunk while filming -- offbeat isn't quite the word, and off-the-wall goes only so far. But if you've ever wanted to see Tetris with dead people floating down the river on rafts, anachronism at the most unexpected times, or just shut off your brain and enjoy a movie which is really impossible to follow, Yaji and Kita's Midnight Pilgrimage will not disappoint. It's half-serious way of dealing with, in the best road movie traditions, two gay lovers, one a drug addict popping blue pills, make their way from medieval Edo to Ise and then when you least expect, burst out the absurd (motorcylces, TV shows, modern-day Tokyo). The translations occasionally fell flat (since the movie includes a lot of verbal jokes in Japanese) or were just plain unintelligible, but watching the miniature Tamiya tankers roll by needs no translations. So, sit back and enjoy the ride.
This is the story of two samurai in Edo period Japan who are in love.
One is married, the other is a drug addict. They decide that in order
to make things better they will go on a trip to Ise Sanctuary, where
its presumed, everything will be made right. What happens once they get
on the road is the movie and its as wild and wacky as anything your
likely to see. There are numerous puns, both visual and verbal; we get
bodily function jokes; gender bending characters; gay jokes;romance;
spoofs of films and music (and musical numbers); trips through time and
space; a search for "my reality"; drug induced hallucinations and other
things I was laughing to hard, or too shocked to noticed. Its a movie
made for the film makers and whom ever will click into their strange
mind set. Frankly its hard to describe what happens since much of it is
so out there that to hear about it out of context will not make any
sense (office girls on parade? Zombie Bartender? Born to be Gay?).Its
probably more fun to discover the weirdness on your own, besides its
too hard to describe simply.
The film is not perfect. Its over two hours and probably could be trimmed by twenty minutes. The film also gets rather bizarrely surreal and it becomes almost too much to take. There is only so much one can take in before one hits the over load button. You probably won't like or get every joke or reference, I didn't, but I have to give it points for keeping at the craziness at all costs.
Still for those are open to crazed, silly/clever films that the term "off beat" is too weak a word. Actually this film is so crazy that there is a good chance it will never even find its well deserved cult.
9 out of 10 for sheer originality and audaciousness. Actually it would probably be something about an 8.5 but I have to round up or down to whole numbers. If you you're into off beat films and original visions look no farther this is the real deal. If you can't handle anything even slightly off center stay away, far away.
A unique cinema experience.
Without a doubt the best movie I have ever seen, in every respect. With
excellent effects, to the many themes covered, entertaining, colorful,
crazy. I couldn't sit still in my seat and definitely have to grab a
copy of this any way I can! Its like Brokeback Mountain meets Sailor
Moon, on speed.
It really shows you that the American film industry don't know anything about the gay community, or for that matter have the ability to produce anything exciting new and original. This is a masterpiece, its one of those films that has to power to make you laugh and cry in the same night, and enjoy laughing and crying.
5 thumbs up.
Don't watch this movie. Or at least, if you do, prepare for
disappointment. Yes, you may have heard this movie is brilliant. It may
be, but you and I won't get it. This is a movie made for the Japanese,
and unless you're well versed in Japanese pop-culture, you won't get
the vast majority of the jokes. And I mean VERY well versed - not just
an occasional J-pop fan or even a manga or anime freak. Many of the
jokes in this movie are obscure Japanese pop-culture references that
even the typical Japanese person won't get. Yes, the subtitles will
help you follow the plot, but the plot is largely irrelevant, as most
of the humor depends on pop- culture references that are impossible to
convey to a foreign audience. And, as an earlier reviewer mentioned,
there are a few Japanese-language puns that you won't get either. Don't
worry, these wouldn't be funny if you did get them, unless you have the
same quirky appreciation of puns as the Japanese. But the bulk of the
humor here isn't language-specific, it's culture-specific, and even if
you speak Japanese you could be left clueless.
Think of it as a Japanese version of The Simpsons or Spaced - for someone who doesn't get the pop-culture references, it would be difficult to appreciate the brilliance of these shows. Yaji-san and Kita-san is probably brilliant in much the same way, but without the cultural background, it comes off at best as just bizarre, and at worst as just juvenile silliness.
That said, it isn't hard to appreciate Yaji-san and Kita-san's absurdist roots, and fans of Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead or even Monty Python should be able to appreciate the spirit if not the content of Yaji-san and Kiya-san. In fact, for Python fans, there are even a few times when you may find yourself laughing while your Japanese friends sit and wonder what's so funny - watch for a clever reference to Monty Python's Search for the Holy Grail, for example. These times are few and far between, however, and for the most of the film you will probably just find yourself scratching your head, wondering what the hell is going on.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Three years ago I read Ikku Jippensha's novel Hizakurige, or Shank's
Mare, for one of my Japanese history classes. I comparison to some of
the other books in the class the long tale of Yaji and Kita was quite
entertaining if a bit long. During the Edo period townsmen and rich
farmers were able to travel more freely so there was a demand for
travel guides. Therefore a number of guides for inns, sites of
interest, teahouses, etc. began to appear. Unlike many of the writers,
Ikku Jippensha took it upon himself to create a "guide" that was also a
quite comedic story. It was in this miasma of budding plebeian
literature and tourism that Yajirobei and Kitahachi, Yaji and Kita for
short, were born. Consisting of passages in which the protagonists mock
samurai, hit on girls, and tour the sites along to Tokaido Road Shank's
Mare is an entertaining read not only for Japanese literature, but for
those who just enjoy humorous literature as well.
Now warp to the year 2005 and put the rapscallion duo of Yaji and Kita into the hands of director Kankuro Kudo. Still dressed in townsmen attire, Kita sports a bleached topknot and has a heroin addiction. Concerned about the health of his friend and lover, there are hints that Yaji and Kita were lovers in some of Jippensha's later stories, Yaji forces his drugged up friend that he needs to go to Ise in order to clean up, so they hop upon Yaji's motorcycle and make their way to Ise. They almost reach their destination when a police officer makes them return to Edo and hike along the Tokaido road to reach their destination.
Like the novel, Yaji and Kita stop at a number of inns, but instead of detailed information concerning the food of each inn, the viewer is treated to middle-aged women being accosted by the God of Laughs, a girl whose singing is so bad Mt. Fuji hazes over, a gaggle of school girls, including one ganguro, who are the fan club of a mafia boss, King Arthur, a bartender and his wife who has become half mushroom, etc. Obviously the film ranges from the comedic to the outright bizarre. At some points it is so bizarre that suspension of disbelief is destroyed. However, the comedic effects of the film are able to draw one back in and make it worthwhile to sit through the two hour plus film.
Definitely not for the prude, there is one scene in which Yaji stretches Kita's nut sack a few feet and then bites it and the ending theme is a song titled "I Want to be Your F*ck" by the Zazen Boys, Yaji and Kita: The Midnight Pilgrims is definitely good for a few laughs and even more "Oh my God" moments.
Yaji and Kita is a film that, as one other reviewer wrote, was
definitely written for the Japanese. It's legendarily filled with pop
culture references, including plenty of ones obscure enough to throw
even a native Japanese viewer, and has its share of language jokes too.
While you may pick up on some of those, chances are good that most of
them will pass you by completely. My wife and I caught only a handful
of them, and chances are you'll catch a few yourself, but you won't get
But it doesn't matter. In the end, the reasons why many Japanese viewers thought this film was brilliant will be lost on most Western film fans - but like all good films, this one isn't relying on just pop culture and language to make you laugh. The film is full of outright humor that DOESN'T get lost in translation; from the very beginning to the very end, this film was making us laugh. What's lost in translation just isn't enough to stop this film from being great, great fun! I usually loathe musicals, but the musical set pieces in this film are just outright hilarious.
If you enjoy bizarre humor, especially visual gags, then you'll get a kick out of Yaji and Kita : The Midnight Pilgrims. The characters are very bright, very colorful and very vivid, and the humor is extremely off the wall, imaginative and playful. There's a story underneath it, and although the film never discards it, it's really about the comedy. The film featured a fair few respected actors, and their talents help to make every small piece of this movie worth a watch - from start to finish, there are set-piece situations and running gags that will keep you laughing and smiling.
We may never see this film the way a Japanese watcher would...but so what? It's great anyway!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Yaji and Kita: Midnight Pilgrims (2005) Directed by Kudo Kankuro.
Yaji and Kita is the story of two samurai from the Edo-era. They are gay lovers with two problems. Yaji is married, Kita is a drug addict. Their lives in Edo have become a spiral of despair, so when Yaji sees an advertisement in the post for Ise, "Get back to Reality" He decides that a pilgrimage to Ise will be good for them, there, maybe Kita can get the monkey off his back.
So they set off on a journey of self discovery. On Captain America's bike from the movie Easy Rider.
Say what? You get that reaction a lot. This movie is a psychedelic road trip through the mind of a junkie. There are a lot of Japanese Pop culture References strewn through the movie. I mean a lot. And if you don't have a very, very, VERY good understanding of Japanese pop culture, you are going to miss out on a lot.
Imagine taking a movie like Airplane or better yet, The Rocky Horror Picture Show to a small village in Nepal. A lot is going to be lost, because they don't get the reference material for some of the jokes, like when June Cleaver offers to translate for the two brothers, because she speaks Jive, or the significance of the pink triangle on Frankie's surgical gown.
So, basically, you have the bastard love child of a Cheech and Chong movie, an Akira Kurosawa film, with a liberal dash of Thelma and Louise, and its gay.
The lovers move along the Tokaido Road, stopping at various inns along the way. The first is the Laugh Inn. No one gets through the check point with out doing a comedy routine. The second is the Music Inn, where you get a song with each cup of tea, from a transsexual innkeeper. His daughter is very sad because her music is so bad, it causes Mt. Fuji to hide in the haze. Kita fools himself into thinking he is love with the daughter, but she is in love with Yaji.
In the mean time, an inspector Kin-kin has found Yaji's wife Ohatsu murdered, and he's hot on the pair's trail.
Their trails and tribulations move on, Inn after Inn, through the mundane to the surreal with all the colour and cogency of a magic mushroom trip, which incidentally, plays a big part in the latter part of the film.
Is the movie good? Well, yes. I enjoyed it. I watched it several times, and got some pointers from my Japanese friend. For instance, the funny stance the school girls take when greeting Kita is the classic pose for Yakuza to assume when making their introductions. Since they are a fan club for a Mob Boss, this makes sense. You have to go into it with an appreciation for the absurd, much like when you watch spoof movies, like Scary movie, and Meet the Spartans, or Pink Floyd's The Wall.
Will you get this movie? All of it, first time out? Only if you are an expatriate from Japan. But part of the fun for me has been picking up things here and there. One of the reasons that so many of the puns work in the translation is because Japan adopts words into the language when they don't have a word, so puns about Thrones, and Thrown work. Weird, huh? Is this a classic movie? I don't think so. Is it a cult movie? Yes, in Japan. Will it catch on here? I doubt it. But if you are a fan of Japanese culture, this is a great little movie. If you are a fan of Gay culture, this is a real trip. If you are a fan of both, you have to watch this movie.
Visually, this movie is stunning, rich and detailed, with jarring anachronisms and wonderful silliness. The stars, Nakamura Shichinosuke, Kita (the blond Uke) and Nagase Tomoya, Yuji, (the handsome Seme) are both cute, and easy on the eyes. I think they did a good job; I got involved with their characters.
This film is probably not for everyone, but if you want to take a subtitled walk on the wild side, this is the film for you.
One of those strange films that I like but find difficult to say 'why' exactly. Surreal, touching, bizarre, obscure, confusing, culture-bound - but also laugh-out-loud funny in parts. Having read other reviews I am not sure how much of the film I got, but this film had its moments, including strong performances all round, a distinctive look and feel based on clashing modern and Edo themes and strong primary colours, and a convincing love story propping it all up. I'd recommend it to anyone who has spent any time in Japan or feels an affinity with the place. I can only guess at what audiences with no experience of Japan would make of it. Probably not very much...
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